Thursday, February 5, 2009

I'm using Linux again!

I'm using Linux again. Now, in light of my numerous rants of Linux's problems, what motivated me to use it again.


Basically, instead of having to struggle to make every single half-baked Linux app or Linux port to work, the only things that need to work are the sound card, the networking card, and the VMware client. I don't have to worry about things like, say, Flash working in Firefox (I can just use my VMware Windows XP image and install Flash there where it will simply work), or trying to figure out how to back up my Nokia phone in Linux (I can just do it in VMware with the tools that came with my phone).

The stuff generally just worked, with only a little more bother to get everything going than it would have in Windows; Ubuntu is making progress. There's a bug that bites VMware player for Linux, but the fix has been plastered all over the web. Skype doesn't work, since I'm using the 64-bit Ubuntu and Skype is only available as a 32-bit binary, but it works just fine in the VMware image (the XP version) and I was able to talk over an hour without too many problems with the sound dropping out, which was probably caused by problems with our internet connections.

I have the 64-bit Linux host and a few 32-bit virtual machines. This keeps entropy and bitrot to an absolute minimum; I can have multiple virtual machines for different tasks; I already have two XP virtual machines: One for work (with Microsoft Office) and one for personal use (with SkyPE and a couple of video games). I'll probably set up another one just for transferring files to and from my phone and setting up my phone; it's only about 4 gigs of hard disk space for me to add another VM to use, and a little over 512 megs of ram to run a VM instance.

So, I get the best of both worlds: I get the ease of setup of Windows XP, and I get the stability and security of Linux. Since I'm using VMs, instead of installing all applications on a single real instance of Windows XP, the bitrot that makes Windows slower to start up and run programs is almost non-existent. It's a very nice setup.

I also have updated the VMware image I use for MaraDNS development to use another CentOS 5.2 image that includes the VMware tools (albeit in an outdated form with some annoyances), making it more convenient to use X with the image. Indeed, instead of trying to make the outdated Fvwm1 window manager (that is great for my software development workflow) work with all of the new tools that need Gnome hints and what not, I just use Fvwm1 in the CentOS image and Gnome when I'm in the non-virtual Ubuntu system.

VMplayer has a full screen mode where the only hint I'm not in a virtual machine is when I touch the top of the screen, causing the VMware toolbar to appear (which lets me close, minimize, or make the virtual machine again). With the tools installed on the guest OS (the OS running on VMware's simulated computer), I can seamlessly resize the VMware window, and move the mouse in and out of the window.

It's a very slick setup. Yes, it takes more memory and hard disk space, but I have enough of both. It lets me keep things cleaner and with less bitrot, and lets me work in the environment that is best for the task at hand, instead of hacks trying to fit a square peg in a round hole, such as Cygwin's X server, or trying to use modern Linux applications with Fvwm1.